One of my friends – at that time she was PhD student at History department of Moscow State University – started working in Italian restaurant and told me once, that she loved to serve and to sell food to the people. I was so much surprised that professors’ daughter and future professor made such a simple career choice… But she found so much philosophy there that she felt happy. It was her contact to the ancient and sacred industry of hospitality. And I remembered her words when I was invited to a little exhibition at hotel Renaissance Moscow Monarch Centre to see paintings of Andrey Polyakov exposed there. There were people, who love to give pleasure to others, they form complex of hospitality of many details.
Russian professor of painting Andrey Polyakov (1960-) is a famous portraitist working in different manners. Emphasizing the psychology of his creations, the painter says that he is ready to compete with any modern artist for the ability to paint eyes of the person. Having talent and skills, he can paint in any genre, but prefer old Russian school: V. Serov, I. Repin and Makovsky. Also A. Polyakov appreciates the lessons of his contemporary I. Glazunov. Among the works of the painter there are portraits of former Russian patriarch Alexey II, the President V. Putin and other famous people of Russia.
The evening combined the comfort of home, the art gallery and social event. It was created for guests’ memory and usefulness and was absolutely free for them. The General Manager of the hotel Armin Eberhard represented the artist to the lodgers whom he knew by name, and invited them to look at the paintings, which gave image of old and modern Russia. Works could be bought immediately at really good price, and the guests could order any individual portrait there.
The idea of the satisfaction of artistic needs of the guests is just one of elements of hospitality phenomenon. Essence of hotel business by meaning is approaching to the modern noble estate, where everything is comfortable, quick and high-tech. We asked A. Eberhard to unveil what things can need the guests of the hotel in addition to the exhibitions and what, in his view, are the key aspects of hospitality today.
E-Vesti: You have so many things in your hotel like fitness, art, etc. Is it important for the client?
Armin Eberhard: It becomes more and more important. The customer has a choice now and competition never sleeps.
15 years ago you had a choice among 4 hotels or so in the city, but now almost every brand is here. Before there were only full-service hotels, now there are hotels that offer select service & budget hotels for lower price (Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton). When my customers or my employees come here, what do they need to stay? The customer wants everything.
E-Vesti: From a point of view of the guest, what is the most important thing in the hotel today?
Armin Eberhard: There are individuals of two kinds: leasure travelers – the persons who come to see the destination on their own private visit and there are also frequent business travelers. International offices operating here in Russia hold big conferences for their Russian associates from all over Russia. The business traveler and conference traveler are looking for location close to their event or business, because otherwise the time table for visit is destroyed. If you spend half a day to go to the office and to get back, you waste your time. The leisure traveler is looking for good access to the sites and city centre. In common, the most important for everyone is location.
E-Vesti: But there are technologies…
Armin Eberhard: Technologies are very similar to everybody, for the leisure traveler as well as for the business traveler. Wi-Fi is the key. It is more important than cable TV, or anything else. No one will stay at your hotel if you don’t have Wi-Fi. Everyone travels with his iPhone or other device, bringing his or her own technology.
Also important is connectivity to devices in the guestroom. You don’t actually use the television, you connect your phone or tablet to the TV in your room. Because that’s what people do at home. So, you come with your iPad or phone, tablet or other preferred device and you can connect to your channels, your database, Netflix, apple TV, Chromcast – whatever you need.
The majority of clients in this hotel are Russians. I was amazed to learn how Russians are technology savvy, they often have minimum two phones, they are very connected, very interactive, very much Social media linked, more than I know from Western-European countries. So, there is no technophobia in Russia.
E-Vesti: Sport teams are common in your hotel. Do they have special requirements?
Armin Eberhard: Yes, of course, they use our hotel because it is near their facility. The agencies working with sport teams, operating with Megasport palace realized that the hotel is laid out very good for them.
We had to adjust to the culinary requirements of our sport guests, because they have very special diet, to communicate with them regarding their schedule. They have training, they come back, again training or a competition, then they come back again and check out in the evening.
This all needs to be flexible if you want to work with them. They have good experience, and we grew our reputation on this market. They communicate to each other and share: “The facility works, transport from and to the hotel by bus is easy, the restaurant is good, the rooms are the right size, the food is good and timely and we could stick to our schedule”.
Right now we have good relationships with a lot of clubs in Russia; we also made our reputation with international clubs who come to play in Russia. It’s football (incl.Cup of legends), hockey (incl.KHL), basketball, handball, tennis, box, kickboxing. KUDO, others. We even adjusted our training facilities for them in the gym and exercise room. We also do joint partnership advertizing and help them to promote their kind of sport as well.
E-Vesti: Did you participate in Sochi games?
Armin Eberhard: This was big business for us, of course, we did it for Moscow Olympic Committee because of our unique product. We sport 40 extended stay apartments that are basically mini apartments of 75 square meters with a kitchen, bedroom and living room. Very few hotels in Moscow have those units.
This group of 40 people was coming from all over the world to create the opening ceremony for the Sochi games. And they needed to stay for over a year. We did not ask for commitment for all the period, because we know, that everything can change during one year. However they stayed for long. Such apartments are not rented for a day, just for half a year and longer.
E-Vesti: As I can see, you have very good catering here, is it very important too?
Armin Eberhard: The core of our business is conference, meetings and congresses. Culinary is important for a conference. We have 3’000 meters square of congress space.
Culinary is important for our business traveler, because he’s experienced to travel all over the world. We have regular guests that spend over 250 nights a year in hotels. So, they live outside their home and have a very-very good comparison of high quality and low quality, from China to London. These travelers have expectations and they have a choice. If the quality is not up to their standard, then there are a lot of places in Moscow to go to instead.
In terms of conference and congress dining one more thing is important. If you have a thousand guests in your halls for four days, all on the same conference schedule, then the first guest must receive the same quality dish as the 1000’s one. And you need to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to that principal. So, we must be able to prepare and serve the steak one thousand times equally good or it does not work for a conference organizer.
E-Vesti: This year is centenary of the Soviet Socialistic revolution and a great number of Chinese guests is expected in Russia for the anniversary. What special requirement do Chinese people have?
Armin Eberhard: Three years ago Russia started a reorientation to the Eastern market. Before that it was Turkey. For the last two years we benefit from the growing demand from China and India as well. It is a relatively new concept to engage in these emerging markets, but it is developing further all the time.
The Chinese tourist market is price-sensitive and volume driven, not luxury niche market. Of course, they have luxury segment, but the volume, of course, like in any market, is price driven.
We experience Chinese travelers from all over China, but the majority is coming from the main cities such as Shanghai or Beijing. They do understand how things work. They are very opened, very flexible and they have very loaded schedule. They spend 5-3 days in Russia, including 2 days in Moscow and 3 days in Saint-Petersburg. 8 o’clock in the morning they are in the bus, 8 o’clock at night they come back. So, they are exhausted at the end of the day.
Their expectations about the quality are rather high. Also they look for authenticity. Of course, they visit Red Square and Tretyakov Gallery, but they’re looking also for the unique things. They want to find out what people eat here. And they want to capture every moment on camera to show at somehow amazing their journey to Russia was.